Christina Perri Talks About Her Excellent Album, A Lighter Shade Of Blue, And Writing Her Classic Hit Songs “A Thousand Years” and “Jar Of Hearts”

Christina Perri
Christina Perri
(photo credit: Ashley Osborn)

After a lengthy hiatus, multi-platinum pop singer/songwriter Christina Perri has returned with her first studio album in eight years, A Lighter Shade Of Blue (on Atlantic Records). Her new album, which is the follow-up to her gold album Head or Heart in 2014, is an impressive collection of 14 songs that display her expressive lead vocals, beautiful melodies and heartfelt lyrics.

A Lighter Shade Of Blue is Perri’s first major work since the period of 2010 to 2014, where she had three big hits (“Jar of Hearts,” “A Thousand Years” and “Human”) two best-selling albums, and she toured the world with several headlining concert tours.

Perri had a breakthrough debut single in 2010, with the release of the uniquely-titled song, “Jar of Hearts.” This song first made an impact when it was played on the hit TV show So You Think You Can Dance, and the exposure led to Perri signing a label deal with Atlantic Records. “Jar of Hearts” became an international hit, was certified 6x platinum in the U.S. and was included on her platinum first album, Lovestrong.

Here’s an excerpt of our interview with Christina Perri, who discusses the making of her new album A Lighter Shade of Blue, which is her first new album in eight years.

Notwithstanding the major success of “Jar of Hearts,” Perri subsequently had her biggest hit to date with her 2011 single, “A Thousand Years.” This ballad was originally written by Perri (and David Hodges) for the blockbuster movie The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1, and a different recording of the song was featured in the follow-up film, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2.

“A Thousand Years,” which has a graceful melody and romantic lyric, became one of the most popular ballad hits of the past decade. Not only has this single been certified diamond (10x platinum) in the U.S., it was a hit in many other countries. In addition, “A Thousand Years” is now sung at many weddings, and it has been covered by other artists.

With her new album, A Lighter Shade Of Blue, Perri has written songs that cover the wide range of events she experienced in her personal life over the past five years. Happily, in 2017 she married her husband, Paul Costabile, and in 2018 they had their first daughter, Carmella. However, Perri also had two devastating setbacks due to pregnancy complications. She had a miscarriage in January 2020, and then 10 months later her baby daughter, Rosie, was tragically stillborn (dying in the womb).

Here’s the video of Christina Perri’s single, “Evergone.”

On her new album, Perri writes about and reflects on these personal events. Her recent single, “Evergone,” lovingly pays tribute to her daughter Rosie, and the song offers a ray of hope moving forward. “Blue” is an emotional, thoughtful song that is one of Perri’s favorites on the album. Other highlights include “Back in Time,” where she sings a duet with hit artist Ben Rector, the uptempo “Time Of Our Lives,” and “Mothers,” where she shares the experiences of motherhood.

Perri recently celebrated the release of her new album with special shows in Los Angeles, New York, and her hometown of Philadelphia. Notably, she will be embarking on a major concert tour next year, where she will be performing many songs from her album.

Christina Perri Interview

We are pleased to do this new Q&A interview with Christina Perri. She discusses her life over the past six years, leading up to the writing & recording of her new album. She also tells how she wrote her classic hit songs, “A Thousand Years” and “Jar of Hearts.”

DK: You’ve just released your new album A Lighter Shade of Blue, which is your first studio album in eight years. Can you talk about the past eight years for you, leading up to your new album?

Christina Perri: It’s been a pretty eventful eight years. Two of those years I was on tour still promoting my second album. So I’ve been working on this record for about six years, which is still too long (laughs). I started writing the album, and then I fell madly in love with my husband and I ended up moving to New York. I got married and I had a baby…this was very much in that season of my life. So I was living life because at the same time, as much as I’m always writing about what I’m going through, I was used to writing about heartbreak and terrible relationships. And I was very much in new territory, being happy and in love and then becoming a mother. These years couldn’t have been more life-changing.

I let my life lead the writing…I wasn’t forcing too many things. I was doing a couple songwriting trips—I’d go to Nashville, I’d go to LA, I would work in New York. I was meeting up with people. And I want to mention that I was writing with all women. For the first time in my career, I asked my record label to only give me a list of female songwriters, which was so cool because I feel like you have to ask for that to make a change. You have to actually hire women.

Here’s the audio of Christina Perri’s song “Back in Time,”
featuring Ben Rector.

So it was a special time in my life, because I was entering a new season of my own self, becoming a mother and being in touch with more of the feminine energy and side in my life. And I was writing with women, so it was really cool. The songwriting was some of my favorite experiences, because like I said, I was writing for my first two albums about heartbreak and bad relationships. Whereas with this one, I was exploring what motherhood is and what joy is and things like that. So I had a good time writing this record. And I didn’t rush, obviously, because it took so long. But also not having to rush was a nice freedom for my creativity.

I feel that what most artists do, is they are racing some sort of clock. Whether it’s the hit song they have on the radio, or a momentum that they have, or wanting to keep up with what’s relevant, I feel there’s always that sort of hurry. And the truth is, I did 19 tours in a row, I had eight singles, and I had such a great career up until what I called my little break. So I was like…if I go back and do this, it feels like I can do whatever. I didn’t feel that I had any pressure to do anything I had done before. And my record label was great and supportive about it, too. They were like, “Go, live your life.” So creatively, I took my time, and I wrote about what I was going through.

At that point a lot of people in my life were like, “Oh no, you’re happy. The music’s not going to be great.” And I was like, “Oh no, don’t you worry. Life is just as hard.” And I have to say, I also went through a lot of really hard things, like pregnancy. I had a miscarriage and then I had a stillborn child, and that was the biggest grief I ever encountered. Then we had the global pandemic, and life kept getting hard and painful for everyone I know. So the six years allowed me to be as authentic as I could be, and true to my narrative as I could be, because I was writing about what I was truly going through. And then here we are now, and I’m so glad the album is out. I have a 4½ year old daughter now, and I’m also 6½ months pregnant with a new baby. Life is still happening and still crazy, and who knows what’s gonna happen. But I’m thrilled to finally put these songs out, because I’ve had them for so long.

DK: I like your new song “Evergone,” which I read was inspired by your daughter Rosie who passed away. Can you talk about writing this song?

Here’s the audio of Christina Perri’s song, “Blue.”

Perri: I had finished A Lighter Shade Of Blue entirely by the fall of 2020. I was trying to be productive in the pandemic and I recorded the whole thing with (producer) Jen Decilveo and (engineer) Gena Johnson. I was so excited and it was finished. At the time, I was eight months pregnant with my daughter, Rosie. And what happened was quite the plot twist. She passed away in utero on November 24 of 2020. [Around that time] we were mixing the album, and we had an idea of what 2021 was going to look like and that’s not what happened. I was going to put out the album, I was going to have a baby, and it was going to be this wonderful year.

What actually happened was so devastating. Rosie passed away and then I made a lullaby record for her, because of course I would have either way. Because I had one for my daughter Carmella. And that was the closest I could think about possibly going back to work. It was like…How do I continue doing what I used to do? I felt like two different people after that—before Rosie passed and then after she passed. And I didn’t know how to bridge the music I had made on A Light Shade Of Blue with putting it out in the world after what I had just gone through. It felt very separate.

Then I remember my record label coming to me, and it was Pete Ganbarg, who’s been my A&R guy since 2010. He said, “Hey, I heard a piece of this song, a piece of the chorus (written by another writer). This really moved me and it made me think of you and it made me think of Rosie, and I wonder how it would make you feel.” And honestly, like I told him many times since, it really saved me because when I heard it, it did touch me as far as the sentiment. And then I thought, “Oh, this is how I can do it. If I write a new song and bring in what happened and honor Rosie and represent her on this album, then it feels authentic and I could possibly go back to doing what I loved to do. So I wrote “Evergone,” and I talk about grief and loss and sing about it and somehow hope to comfort all those who have loss somebody that they love. And in return for me, it helped me find myself again.

DK: Another song I like on your album is “Back In Time,” where you sing a duet with Ben Rector. How did you connect with Ben on this song?

Here’s the audio of Christina Perri’s song, “Mothers.”

Perri: I’m a huge fan of Ben’s—I love all his music.  I also love him as a person; he’s a wonderful human being and normal fun guy. He’s also a dad, and we bonded over social media about being parents and about how weird that is as songwriters. We became friends, and when I wrote “Back In Time” I was in Nashville and I wrote it with David Hodges and it felt like a duet. So I imagined Ben singing on it, and so I hit him up. I sent him the song and said, “Hey, I’d be honored if you wanted to sing this with me.” It was in the middle of the pandemic and he was like, “I love it.” So I sent it to him and he did it in his studio in Nashville and sent it back to me. And that’s how it happened…it’s like the modern day “makin’ music in the pandemic” story.

DK: I like your new song “Mothers,” which is a honest and personal song about being a mother. That must have been a meaningful song for you to write.

Perri: Yes. I wrote that song with (hit songwriter) Amy Wadge and she’s a mom; she’s got two daughters. We wrote this in 2019. As a songwriter, I was honestly choosing the most powerful feelings and experiences I ever had. And one of them was the transition of going from a woman to a mother. It fundamentally shifted my life, and I remember sitting with Amy and we were talking about it. So of course we ended up writing a song about it. We were writing about how hard it is. I mean, the truth is [having a child] is wonderful, and it’s the most worth it thing in the whole world. But when you’re in it, it just seems insane. You have so many feelings like, “What did I just do” and “What is my life now?” “Who am I” and “Who will I be?” Then at the same time, your heart grows 10 sizes because you love your child so much. And I thought that was so crazy. I wanted to make it a love letter, about how so many moms really suffer quietly. And I feel that I’m so loud (laughs) and I sing and talk about everything I feel. But most women aren’t like that, especially with pain or suffering. So I kept thinking about all the moms that were suffering quietly and feel alone. And so that’s why we wrote it as a little love letter.

DK: Besides the songs we’ve discussed, what are your favorite songs on your album?

Here’s the video of Christina Perri’s hit, “Jar of Hearts.”

Perri: Oh my gosh…because I spent so long making this album, I somehow like every song. I think my favorite is “Blue,” because it was the first song I wrote that made me feel like I knew exactly what the album was. Because I had spent so many years writing and collecting songs, not knowing what it would ultimately become, “Blue” was a huge for me, like a cornerstone. It was like, “Oh, now I know exactly what this song will be about becoming a lighter version of who I really am, which is always the sad girl or whatever. So I really love that song. I also love Luke Sital-Singh, who I wrote it with, and he’s singing on there. I also love “Surrender”—I wrote that with three other moms: Adrianne Gonzalez, Aijia Grammer and Rachel Platten. We were all mom friends. And so we got together and wrote that song.

DK: I wanted to ask you about two of your earlier hits, “Jar of Hearts” and “A Thousand Years.” Can you talk about writing those songs?

Here’s an excerpt of our interview with Christina Perri, who tells how she wrote her classic hit, “A Thousand Years.”

Perri: I wrote “Jar of Hearts” in December 2009. I was at my parents house, and I was a waitress at the time. I vividly remember writing that song in my childhood bedroom. I wrote it on guitar, and then I went down to the kitchen and I said to my mom, “Hey mom, look what I just did!” She said, “That’s nice, honey” (laughs). There wasn’t any magic moonbeams that came from that song that would indicate it would be the song to break my whole career. But I wrote it so truthfully about the moment you get over somebody and you mean it. For instance, I think a lot of people, especially in their 20s, keep going back to the same unhealthy relationship, and sometimes you find yourself wishing you didn’t go back to them. I did that so many times with one of my ex’s. Then one day he hit me up and wanted to get together, and I said, “No,” and I meant it. And that was the victorious day that I wrote “Jar of Hearts.”

Here’s the video of Christina Perri’s hit, “A Thousand Years.”

That song meant a lot to me, and when I was making the demo a couple months later, I had finally met managers and I was on the trajectory of potentially being an artist. I picked that song to record and transposed it to piano, and jazzed it up a little bit, and then the demo version ended up being on a television show (So You Think You Can Dance). I loved the demo, so I refused to re-record it. There were many times when my record label asked me to put drums on it or do it with a certain producer, and I was like, “No.” The magic was the demo…that’s the one that went viral. So that’s the story of “Jar of Hearts.” It really changed my life forever. The song was played on So You Think You Can Dance on June 30, 8 pm, 2010, and then the next day I quit my job as a waitress.

DK: Your song “A Thousand Years” has become very popular and a classic. How did you write this song?

Perri: Writing is what I love most and what saves me. I feel like “A Thousand Years” was a gift because when you have a big song like “Jar of Hearts,” you never know if you’re going to continue on with your career or if that’s it. Would I just be a song or would I be an artist? So when I wrote “A Thousand Years,” I was just being true because I loved the Twilight movies. I was being really nerdy. I begged my manager to let me go see the movie. And it was though I cared more about screening the film more than I did the writing of the song. I literally had the Twilight book covers framed on my wall when I was a waitress. And so when they asked me to write a song for the wedding scene, I took David Hodges, my trusted writing partner, and I made him go see the movie with me, which he was not excited about because he was a grown man (laughs). Then we went back to his house and we wrote “A Thousand Years” for the wedding scene.

We made our song a waltz… we made it feel like a procession song in a wedding. We made the lyrics about apprehension and seeing the groom at the front and being confident. It was like the whole scene played out in the song. And what’s wild about the world sometimes, they picked the song but they didn’t put it in the wedding scene. They played it at the end credits. But as a songwriter, I have to say I’m quite proud that intuitively, people figured out our intention was for it to be a wedding song and it became the number one wedding song for the next five years. And millions of people got married to it and continue to get married to it. So as a songwriter, I love that it didn’t matter that it was about vampires, it didn’t matter that it was in the credits (and not the wedding scene), it didn’t matter that it was attached to the Twilight series. It ended up being even bigger…it took on a life of its own.

Then that song afforded me the rest of my career. The song took me to every country and it allowed me to do what I do on a global level. So that song feels like the gift for me. “Jar of Hearts” was like the “lightning in a bottle,” but “A Thousand Years” was really the gift. I now have this career, and people listen to my music and show up to my shows. I’m proud of being the writer of that song.

Here’s the link to Christina Perri’s site:

Dale Kawashima is the Head of SongwriterUniverse and a music journalist. He’s also a music publishing exec who has represented the song catalogs of Michael Jackson, Prince, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Motown Records.
Dale Kawashima